Acquisition in the crosshairs amid DOD restructuring

Placeholder Image for Article Template

The Defense Department is facing significant challenges and changes in the coming months and years, and with a mandate to streamline and cut spending, acquisition is emerging as a critical area.

DOD officials expect to see big changes in acquisition, whether they involve reforming how the military buys its weapons, IT, services and other goods; improving the workforce in charge of purchasing; or handing off certain responsibilities.

"Our intent is to ensure that people approach the problem of how to do a specific acquisition with an open mind and try to do the best approach for that particular product," said Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. "It struck me how incredibly complicated it was, how difficult it was for program managers to just make their way through that maze."

During a conference hosted by Credit Suisse and organized by McAleese and Associates on Feb. 25, Kendall outlined some tentative plans to streamline acquisition rules, ideally before the fiscal 2015 defense funding bill. At least some of the work is being carried out in conjunction with Capitol Hill lawmakers, including Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

"I don't know that it'll catch [the fiscal 2015 defense authorization act], except for maybe low-hanging fruit, simply because of the processes in going through the legislative and approval processes," Kendall said. "But we'll try to get low-hanging fruit."

One example: Any business system that costs more than $1 million across the five-year defense spending plan has to be certified by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Kendall said.

"That's insane," he said. "It turns it into a rubber stamp. There are thousands of these things." He added that reforms to the Defense Acquisition Regulations System, a more complicated effort, can also be expected in the near term.

"What happens is that people keep adding statutory requirements year over year over year, all trying to improve things," he said. "But what happens is that you start with something very clean -- [the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act], for example, is a good act that has a lot of really good things in it -- but people keep adding and adding, and it just makes the burden on program managers huge. So the idea is to simplify so that we have a coherent body of law."

Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, military deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said IT acquisition is an especially complex area that needs particular attention.

"I've got programs that deal with buying additional servers from [the Defense Information Systems Agency]," Davis said. "I've got programs that are trying to revolutionize personnel and pay and accounting systems. We have programs out there that are trying to protect the Air Force network from cyber threats. So IT can go a long way, and each one is a little bit of a different issue...and each one of those areas requires specific acquisition techniques. You just can't lump them together as IT."

In some cases, such as business IT systems and DOD's much-maligned enterprise resource planning programs, it might be better to hand off whatever is not within the department's areas of core competencies, Davis added.

"I have long said that I don't think that DOD collectively should be in business information systems," he said. "I don't think that we should be doing business enterprise systems. I don't think we grow the talent or workforce to do that."

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group